Even born-and-raised Dallasites may not recognize their city in Nikola Olic’s photographs.

The Serbian-born photographer, who lives in East Dallas, travels around the city and across the world juxtaposing skyscrapers and landscapes to create images that look more like optical illusions than photographs. And to prove he hasn’t superimposed the pictures in Photoshop, Olic posts coordinates to the exact location where he pressed the shutter button.

Through tightly cropped images that collapse time and space, Olic highlights the hidden beauty of buildings that neighbors have driven past a thousand times.

“I call it structure photography,” Olic says. “I like urban spaces and exploring them. What does it mean for me to have a photo that represents this building? If you spend time and mindfully stare at a building and really think about what you could do, that’s when these things happen.”

Photography is a “labor of love” for Olic, who came to Texas as an exchange student in 1992. He decided to stay in the United States because of the Balkan Wars in his homeland. 

During the week, he works as a software designer in Uptown. On the weekends, he sets out to capture the most interesting angles, patterns and façades on the buildings around him.

Neighbors may recognize downtown landmarks like the Fountain Place building in his work; or perhaps more obscure, the roof of an art deco storage building set against a crisp blue sky in Fair Park.  

Sometimes his images are playful, like when he made the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge appear to play tennis with the moon. In another instance, a well-placed cloud made a white New York building look like a cigarette emitting a puff of smoke. 

Other times, he makes a more profound statement by drawing on sociopolitical influences. A small red dot on a building in Macau is a reminder of nearby communist China, where gambling in the autonomous region would be outlawed.

Olic’s travels have also taken him to Miami, Los Angeles and Boston, where he had to explain himself to a few nervous police officers who found him “loitering” and taking photos in various spots outside the Federal Reserve building.

His favorite place to visit is New York City, where he spends time shooting each year. After taking thousands of pictures, he returns home to sort, crop and identify ways to perfect his work the following year. Such trips have yielded photos like “United Chrysler Nations,” which shows the Chrysler and United Nations buildings as two halves of the same structure. In reality, they’re about a half mile apart.

To comfort anyone who feels a little disoriented looking at his work, sometimes even Olic gets confused.

“I flew to Chicago to recreate my photo and take it further,” he says. “Chicago hadn’t moved. The Bean hadn’t moved, but I didn’t get it. I could not figure out my own photo.”

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